From concept to action, how can Scotland support the transition to net-zero through Negative Emission Technologies (NETs)
Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs), also known as Greenhouse Gas Removals, Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDRs) or simply Carbon Removals are essential in a net zero economy. Encompassing both nature-based and engineered pathways, NET’s are a group of solutions where atmospheric CO2 is captured and sequestered in order to achieve a ‘net removal’ of carbon.
Ricardo was commissioned by the Scottish Government to help better understand the NETs market, and to understand how NETs can realistically be deployed in Scotland to support the transition to net-zero. The study also identified future NETs pathways and policy recommendations to support deployment.
Understanding the negative emissions technologies (NETs) landscape
Our first task was to review the relevance of NETs for Scotland, taking account of considerations such as availability of bioresources, CO2 storage options, and further demand for power and renewables. Stakeholder engagement played a pivotal role in developing our understanding of future market demand for NETs, CO2 storage capacity, market penetration and market barriers across the different types of technology (e.g. DACCS, BECCS (power, hydrogen, EfW, biogas, biofuels, industry) and biochar.
Assessing NETs potential in Scotland
The study undertook analysis in to NETS potential and costs for the following options:
i. converting existing sites to become carbon removal projects (e.g., existing biomethane, distillery, biomass CHP and EfW sites); and
ii. the development of future NETs in Scotland (e.g., DACCS, biochar, hydrogen from biomass, biofuels and new biomass CHP and EfW sites).
Our assessment of the NETs potential identified
- The maximum biogenic carbon available from existing sites in Scotland is currently 3.3 MtCO2/year
- NETs in the BECCS Power and BECCS Industry sectors accounts for 69% of the total NETs potential
- EfW emerged as the predominant technology in terms of carbon removal potential, being able to capture 83% of the total carbon emitted (including non-biogenic CO2 originating from the non-biogenic part of the feedstock) but only accounted for 55% of the total NET potential, as not all EfW emissions are biogenic.
- The flexibility (e.g., municipal solid waste, MSW vs. refuse derived fuel, RDF) in feedstock selection means that EfW sites have greater variability in capture potential and costs.
Key findings and policy recommendations
- The study estimates that, by 2030, Scotland could achieve a maximum NETs potential of 2.2 MtCO2/year. With policy interventions from both the UK and Scottish Governments, this could increase to 6.8 MtCO2/year by 2045, incorporating technologies like direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), bioenergy CCS (BECCS), energy from waste (EfW), biomethane, and distillery sites playing a role in this
- The introduction of negative emission trading elements was identified as a significant opportunity, potentially adding ~5.7 MtCO2 of additional carbon removals – via a revenue mechanism based on the negative emissions at each site. Our analysis estimated that this could lead to an additional 50-60 sites being able to profitably deploy NETs
- Sector-specific funding, particularly directed towards biomethane and fermentation sectors, could further support NETs development. Our study estimated that a targeted £40 million investment by the Scottish Government was estimated to contribute between 0.12 MtCO2 and 0.36 MtCO2 of additional emissions reduction.
Scotland's unique position
The deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure emerged as crucial. Ample CO2 storage capacity in the North Sea and a strong base in CCS research and development (R&D) and engineering skills positioned Scotland uniquely to lead the way. Companies like Carbon Capture Scotland and Carbogenics were recognised for their role in NETs deployment.
Consultations with stakeholders from a diverse range of industries, higher education, research, and trade associations reflected a positive perception of NETs. However, unanimous agreement prevailed that policy changes incentivising NETs were imperative. Long-term financial support and up-front CAPEX support were highlighted as critical needs.
Dependence on Acorn storage facility and renewable resources
The study emphasised the pivotal role of the Acorn Storage facility in the development of NETs by 2030. Existing sites, especially in biomethane and distillery sectors, were identified as potential contributors before 2030. A sustainable source of electricity, crucial for DACCS, necessitated careful consideration amid strong competition for renewable resources.
Decarbonisation strategies for Energy from Waste (EfW):
Carbon capture and storage emerged as a key decarbonisation option for EfW sites, capable of contributing negative emissions. The study recommended policies to encourage CCS development on future EfW sites and prioritise deployment on existing EfW sites integrated with combined heating and power (CHP) and district heating (DH) schemes.
NETs: Essential for Scotland's net zero targets
Highlighting the critical role of NETs in achieving net zero targets in Scotland, the study underscored the importance of both nature-based and engineered solutions. The comprehensive understanding provided by Ricardo's study serves as a roadmap for policymakers, offering actionable insights to navigate the challenging path towards a sustainable, net-zero future for Scotland.
The full report is available here: Feasibility Study - https://www.gov.scot/isbn/9781835216583 / Technical Appendices - https://www.gov.scot/isbn/9781835216576
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